Having an optimal recovery from surgery requires planning and preparation, says Saju Joseph, MD, FACS, program director of the graduate medical education surgery program for The Valley Health System. It’s important to talk with your surgeon and develop a strategy to manage pain, he says. Here, he explains more.
Q: What can I do before surgery to prepare?
Exercise* can be helpful because it can stimulate the body’s natural ability to heal, thereby reducing nerve damage. If you are a smoker, quitting can also help. Smoking and nicotine can cause damage to blood vessels, nerves and skin. Stopping even two weeks prior to surgery can reduce complications and improve healing.
Q: How can my diet affect my recovery?
Patients require a large amount of protein and complex carbohydrates to heal from surgery. An increase in heathy intake should begin at least two weeks before a planned operation and in conjunction with exercise. Make sure you discuss this with your doctor. For elderly patients, I encourage protein shakes to supplement their regular diet.
Q: What can I do to relieve pain after surgery?
After surgery, activity is the key. The faster you get moving, the more circulation returns to the injured area and the faster nerves heal. In addition, walking stimulates core muscle to function, which acts to reduce the inflammatory signal caused by the surgery itself. Also, meditation, massage, Reiki and even chewing gum can sometimes help.
Q: What pain medications might be used?
Narcotics are often the last resort, as they may have significant side effects and often slow healing. Today there are long-acting injections that can relieve pain for days to weeks. Surgeons can also insert catheters into the incision site to deliver medicines to the exact nerves damaged at the time of surgery. Additionally, anti-inflammatory medications may be used to reduce the cause of pain.
*Before starting a new exercise routine, consult your doctor.
Physical Therapy or Rehab
Sometimes physical therapy or cardiac rehabilitation can help with recovery. Cardiac rehab is available at Summerlin and Desert Springs hospitals. Physical therapy is available at Centennial Hills, Desert View (Pahrump), Spring Valley and Summerlin hospitals. Physical therapists are specialized in helping post-operative patients with their recovery. While many patients will not like being active just after surgery, their exercises are designed to expedite the healing process and reduce the time patients have pain and dysfunction.